Hey, Democrats! We need you to get your act together!
Yes, this needs to happen, but I doubt it will. "Donald Trump’s victory reads to me like a realignment election, a historic break with the way interest and demographic groups have behaved in the U.S. in my lifetime. Yet, Democrats, you so far seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Indeed, if I were Donald Trump I would be cackling with glee at your post-election behavior, which seems ideally calculated to lock Trump in for a second term before he has been sworn in for the first. Stop this. Your country needs you. I’m not joking and I’m not concern-trolling. The wailing and the gnashing of teeth and the denial of reality have to end. In the rest of this essay I’m not going to talk about right and wrong and ideology, I’m going to talk about the brutal practical politics of what you have to do to climb out of the hole you are in. We need to start with an unsparing assessment of that hole. First, your ability to assemble a broad-based national coalition has collapsed. Do not be fooled into thinking otherwise by your popular vote “win”; that majority came entirely from the West Coast metroplex and disguises a large-scale collapse in popular support everywhere else in the U.S. County-by-county psephological maps show that your base is now confined to two major coastal enclaves and a handful of university towns. Only 4 of 50 states have both a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor. In 2018 that regionalization is going to get worse, not better; you will be defending 25 seats in areas where Trump took the popular vote, while the Republicans have to defend only 8 where Clinton won. Your party leadership is geriatric, decades older than the average for their Republican counterparts. Years of steady losses at state level, masked by the personal popularity of Barack Obama, have left you without a bench to speak of – little young talent and basically no seasoned Presidential timber under retirement age. The fact that Joseph Biden, who will be 78 for the next Election Day, is being seriously mooted as the next candidate, speaks volumes – none of them good. Your ideological lock on the elite media and show business has flipped from a powerful asset to a liability. Trump campaigned against that lock and won; his tactics can be and will be replicated. Worse, a self-created media bubble insulated you from grasping the actual concerns of the American public so completely that you didn’t realize the shit you were in until election night. Your “coalition of the ascendant” is sinking. Tell all the just-so stories you like, but the brute fact it failed to turn out to defeat the Republican candidate with the highest negatives in history. You thought all you had to do was wait for the old white men to die, but anybody who has studied the history of immigration in the U.S. could have told you that the political identities of immigrant ethnic groups do not remain stable as they assimilate. You weren’t going to own the Hispanics forever any more than you owned the Irish and the Italians forever. African-Americans, trained by decades of identity politics, simply failed to show up for a white candidate in the numbers you needed. The sexism card didn’t play either, as a bare majority of married women who actually went to the polls seem to have voted for Trump. But your worst problem is less tangible. Trump has popped the preference bubble. The conservative majority in most of the U.S. (coastal enclaves excepted) now knows it’s a conservative majority. Before the election every pundit in sight pooh-poohed the idea that discouraged conservative voters, believing themselves isolated and powerless, had been sitting out several election cycles. But it turned out to be true, not least where I live in the swing state of Pennsylvania, where mid-state voters nobody knew were there put Trump over the top. Pretty much the same thing happened all through the Rust Belt. That genie isn’t going to be stuffed back in the bottle. Those voters now know they can deliver the media and the coastal elites a gigantic fuck-you, and Republicans know the populist techniques to mobilize them to do that. Trump’s playbook was not exactly complicated. Some Democrats are beginning to talk, tentatively, about reconnecting to the white working class. But your real problem is larger; you need to make the long journey back to the political center. Not the center you imagine exists, either; that’s an artifact of your media bubble. I’m pointing at the actual center revealed by psephological analysis of voter preferences. That center is far to the right of what you would prefer. For that matter it is rather the right of where I would prefer – but facts are facts and denying them isn’t going to help. You Democrats need to think about what it takes to be competitive on a continuum where Fox News is barely right of center, Mitt Romney was an out-of-touch liberal, and as near as I could tell the politician who actually nailed the psephological center in 2008 was none other than Sarah Palin. If you do not do this thing, you will continue to lose. Again, I emphasize that I am not issuing an ideological prescription here. I am not arguing in this essay that the present Democratic platform and strategy is wrong in an abstract moral sense, but rather that that it has become suicidal practical politics. Trump has dynamited almost every connection it had to winning elections, and smarter Republicans than Trump will take the lesson going forward. Before I get to suggesting some changes, I want to point out that the results of the dominance Republicans have already achieved are going to make your problems even worse than they look now. Those problems don’t end with not having a farm team. State-level control means the Republicans will largely determine redistricting in the 2020 census. Their ability to pass voter-ID laws will surely hurt you as well. I also need to point out that you shouldn’t count on Republican failure to save you. Yes, I know Democrats tell themselves Republican “hard right” policy actually implemented will alienate so many voters that they’ll come running back to your party. But you also thought Hillary was inevitable and how did that work out for ya? Trump’s popularity has risen as his program becomes clearer. You need to be positioned so that you can cope with outcomes other than catastrophic disenchantment with Trumpian populism."